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Territorial Army

In 1998 the 'Strategic Defence Review', made the Army more relevant and effective in meeting the demands of the post-Cold War era and the 21st century. The 87 Territorial Army companies in 33 battalions reduced to 67 companies in 15 battalions. The final years of the 1990s and the turn of the Millennium saw the Territorial Army assume a more high-profile role. As the Regular Army became increasingly engaged in overseas operations, the TA moved from being a 'force of last resort' to become the 'reserve of first choice' in supporting the Regulars. Some 6900 personnel were mobilised for Operation TELIC, the invasion of Iraq, and the TA continues to provide around 1,200 troops each year to support the Regular Army in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans. In 2004 the Government announced a radical restructuring of the Army, leading to the realignment of the TA as reserves of the regular regiments. Under TA Rebalancing, 15 TA infantry battalions were reduced to 14, but the overall strength of the force remained the same.

Volunteers have formed a vital part of British ground forces for hundreds of years. Usually raised during times of crisis or perceived threat, early volunteer units usually comprised infantry, artillery and yeomanry. Yeomanry units were mounted and formed from gentleman farmers and tenants. One such unit, the Castlemartin Yeomanry Cavalry (later to become the Pembroke Yeomanry) earned the only battle honour awarded to a British Army unit for an action on British soil, when it repelled the last invasion of Great Britain in February 1797.

In 1907 Parliament passed legislation which saw the consolidation of the yeomanry and volunteers into the Territorial Force. When the United Kingdomcreated the TA in 1907, the term “territorial” signified that its members — who had previously been organized into separate elements such as the Volunteers, Militia, and Yeomanry — were not required to serve outside British territory. The first units were stood up on 1st April 1908, and this date is accepted as the birth of the Territorial Army. The Territorial Force was mobilised in August 1914, its soldiers fighting alongside, and indistinguishable from, the Regular Army. Upon demobilisation in 1918 Territorial Force units were disbanded, but were reconstituted in 1920 as the part-time Territorial Army.

As war clouds loomed over Europe in the early months of 1939, the Government authorized the 'duplication' of all Territorial Army units, thereby doubling the size of the TA. On the outbreak of hostilities in September 1939, the Territorial Army was mobilized and its units absorbed into the British Army. When the Army demobilised in 1946 the TA was temporarily suspended, but was reconstituted in 1947as a part-time reservist force similar to its pre-1939 structure.

During the 1950s and 1960s the Government allowed the Territorial Army to become seriously under-manned and poorly-equipped. In 1967 MOD introduced a “One Army” concept that integrated the TA units directly into the Regular Army. The new policy required the TA, when mobilized, to provide “round out” units of up to battalion size to support the active-duty Army. This poorly-advised and heavy-handed attempt at reinvigorating the reserves led to a virtual abolition of the regimental system among the reserves. Realising the error of its ways, the government set out in 1971 to increase the size of the reserves, creating many new battalions. Subsequent expansions and reorganizations over the following 20 years meant that, by the early 1990s, the regimental system was almost totally re-established. Throughout this period of fluctuating fortunes, the Territorial Army was never regarded as a particularly useable or effective force, either by the Government of the day or by the Regular Army. With the image of a 'force of last resort', its role was, at least unofficially, seen as home defence.

The Strategic Defence Review in 1998 spoke of a manpower target of 45,000. The strength of the Territorial Army on 01 July 1997 was 55,760, which included 620 mobilised reservists. By the year 2000 the total strength of the Territorial Army was 43,334. The strength of the Territorial Army on 01 December 2003, was 37,750, which included 3,920 mobilised reservists but excluded 390 TA officers currently serving in the full-time reserve service. By then Government had reoriented the focus of the Territorial Army away from the cold war features, which were primarily intended to provide reinforcement in a conflict in central Germany and to protect key installations in this country. The Government's defence White Paper stated that the TA had become an integral part of the regular armed forces and that it will be increasingly used in future operations.

In March 2006, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram announced plans to enhance the TA’s contribution to future military operations by aligning its structure and roles more closely with those of the regular Army. These changes were part of a broader Future Army Structure (FAS) initiative, which aimed to create new medium-sized fighting units. Under the new “pairing” concept, each TA unit would have affiliations with two Regular units: a primary affiliation with the unit that it would join in operations, and a secondary affiliation with a unit with which it would conduct routine training. The existing “regimental” system had combined one regular battalion and one TA battalion into a British Infantry regiment.

The creation of a new senior Territorial Army post has underlined the Regular Army’s commitment to the Reserve forces and the ongoing Future Reserves 2020 (FR20) study. Major General Gerald Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster, KG CB OBE CD TD DL has taken up the post of Deputy Commander Land Forces (DCLF). It is the first time that a two-star staff officer post has been created specifically for the TA. Maj Gen Westminster will be responsible for providing expert input on Army Reserves issues at the heart of Army Headquarters, bringing the experience of 41 years of service in the TA. The Sunday Times and the Telegraph reported in December 2011 that the Territorial Army may be re-named in an attempt to rid its 'Dad’s Army' image. The Territorial Army could be renamed following a Ministry of Defence review, which will also see the force more than double in size. The name change might enable the TA to shed its “weekend warrior” image. The most likely name was reported to British Army Reserves, reflecting the role of TA personnel who were regularly deployed to war zones, including Afghanistan. As of 2011 the TA had 14,000 troops trained and available to serve, and it was anticipated that its strength will increase to 30,000.

The recommendations of the Future Reserves 2020 (FR20) Commission set up by the Prime Minister to examine the future shape and role of the UK's Reserve forces were announced to Parliament on 18 July 2011. FR20 represents the most drastic overhaul of the British Army since the end of National Service in 1960. The decision to completely reshape the structures of both the Regular Army and TA follow recognition that the Reserve forces haf not been used efficiently or effectively in the past, and there is an urgent need to modernise it to bring it in line with current operations.

Today’s TA is still geared towards large-scale intervention operations, whereas the nature of conflict has changed. There is now a need to utilise the TA more widely, such as in homeland security, UK resilience, wider specialist capabilities such as stabilisation and cyber, and as a formal mechanism for regeneration. The first phase of reshaping the Army – which commences in April this year (2012) – will be to increase the TA’s current strength to 30,000 Phase Two trained soldiers while reducing the Regular force to 82,000, to give a combined strength of 112,000 by 2020.

The 60s British TV sitcom "Dad's Army" followed the farcical exploits of the Walmington-on-Sea platoon, led by Captain Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe) and it ran on TV from 1968 to 1977. The story begins in May 1940 with Sir Anthony Eden's plea to men to come forward as Local Defence Volunteers. In the fictional town of Walmington, the pompous bank manager George Mainwaring declares himself commanding officer ("Times of peril always bring great men to the fore,") and gathers together a loyal but incompetent platoon of local men to defend the town against invasion. "Dad's Army"was created and written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft, the duo who were also responsible for 'Allo 'Allo, Hi-De-Hi! and It Ain't Half Hot, Mum. Perry came up with the idea when it struck him that people had forgotten the role that the Home Guard played in the Second World War. The sitcom Although reviewers initially criticised the series for mocking the Home Guard, the plotline was surprisingly realistic. The real Home Guard lacked uniforms and weapons at first, and the huge influx of volunteers meant that the organisation was quite shambolic.

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Page last modified: 03-08-2012 18:34:05 ZULU